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Visiting San Diego’s Balboa Park

One of the cultural gems of San Diego is Balboa Park.  This 1,200-acre mecca features a variety of museums, galleries, restaurants, gardens, and even the San Diego Zoo.  In this blog post we introduce you to some of Balboa Park’s highlights — not just the architecture but even some of the flora and fauna along the way.


This photo is of the Casa del Prado Theater.  It is a historic reconstruction of buildings from the 1915 Panama-California (or Pan American) Exposition.  The Expo was held in honor of the 1915 opening of the Panama Canal.  The celebrated event took place in San Diego for the purpose of advertising the city as the first U.S. port of call for vessels traveling north after traversing the canal.


The architects of the 1915 Expo were inspired by ornamental Spanish Baroque as well as Spanish Colonial architecture motifs.  The fusion created the Spanish-Colonial Revival elements that can be seen here at the Casa del Prado Theater‘s facade.


Another attraction of Balboa Park is the Botanical Building.  This historical building is considered one of the world’s largest lath structures.  The wooden slat-laths certainly make the Balboa Park Botanical Building a unique edifice.  Over 2,000 different species of plants are said to grow in the Botanical Building’s grounds.


The Balboa Park Botanical Building has a lily pond and mini lagoon.  Here’s a photo of one of the mini lagoon’s flora.


And, here’s a breathtaking photo of a pond lily being visited by a honeybee.  The Balboa Park Botanical Building’s pondscapes seem to have their very own nature operas playing for visitors to take in.


We learned a new word while at the Balboa Park Botanical Building — the word cupola.  A cupola is a small dome adorning the top of another dome.  This image is of the Balboa Park Botanical Building’s cupola, with the signature slat-laths at the bottom.


Other types of flora can be found at the Balboa Park Botanical Building.  Here are some in yellow.


As for those who are more fond of purple hues like mauve, here’s a floral species reminiscent of lavender.


This photo features a Balboa Park view across the Botanical Building’s lily pond.  The reflection on the water shows the spires embellishing the buildings of the Visitors Center and the San Diego History Center.


For a better idea on how opulent the embellishments are, have a look at this photo, which harkens back to Baroque and Rococo roots that are recognized by sumptuous use of elaborate architectural ornamentation:


This photo captures a squirrel manning the rails at the Balboa Park Timken Museum of Art.


Speaking of Balboa Park museums, the oldest and largest art museum in the San Diego region is the San Diego Museum of Art, which was founded in 1926.  William Templeton Johnson and Robert W. Snyder are credited for the architectural design of this eye-catching building.


Here is one of the sculptures on display at the Balboa Park’s San Diego Museum of Art.


The drought-resistant plants on the grounds of the Balboa Park San Diego Museum of Art were undoubtedly a sight of splendid green!


Meanwhile, this equestrian statue is of El Cid — the 11th century military leader and strategist esteemed as one of Spain’s national heroes.  This statue was crafted in 1927 by American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, who, incidentally, was married to philanthropist and arts patron Archer Milton Huntington. Archer was the founder of the Hispanic Society of America.


Here’s another example of the Spanish-Colonial Revival elements in the architecture of Balboa Park.


And, here’s a Balboa Park flower in reddish tones.  This one was found amongst other landscaped blossom arrangements gracing Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama.


This Balboa Park floral beauty couldn’t be missed either.


In this photo we have an exterior view of the San Diego Museum of Man, where anthropology exhibits are on display.  The California Bell Tower and its adjacent Dome are recognized as iconic Balboa Park landmarks.


Balboa Park’s California Bell Tower soars an extra 200 feet above the Dome.  What’s more, the California Bell Tower houses a carillon that chimes every quarter hour.  The music can be heard throughout Balboa Park to help folks gauge the passage of time.


Architect Bertram Goodhue designed the San Diego Museum of Man‘s California Building.  He was influenced not just by the Baroque and Rococo movements but also by Plateresque and Churrigueresque motifs, as can be seen in this photo of the Dome and museum window.  The word “Eureka” — seen below the museum window — is Greek in origin and translates as “I have found it!”  Legend has it that mathematician Archimedes exclaimed “Eureka!” when he discovered a method for identifying the purity of gold.  Not surprisingly, California’s state motto is “Eureka!  I have found it!” — because of the 1840s discovery that, in turn, spurred the Gold Rush.


The next place we visited at Balboa Park was the courtyard of the Simon Edison Centre for the Performing Arts, which is nicknamed The Old Globe.  The Old Globe is in fact comprised of three venues:  the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre (formerly the Cassius Carter Centre Stage), and the historic Old Globe Theatre.


The historic Old Globe Theatre naturally brings to mind the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare.


Also at Balboa Park was this mosaic sculpture of an alligator.  It can be found near the Mingei International Museum entryway.


From this perspective we can see more of the Balboa Park Alligator Mosaic Sculpture.


Did you know that there are about 19 trails at Balboa Park for hikers and runners to enjoy?  Here’s a flowering tree’s blossom near one of those trails.

Balboa-Park-Trail-Flowering-Tree - Learning By Kids

And, here we are on one of the many trails at Balboa Park.


Have a look at the roots of this Balboa Park tree — they are amazing in size and in extent of reach!

BalboaParkTreeRoots---LearningByKids Then, as we prepared to climb the trail’s exiting staircase, we were pleasantly surprised to find a Balboa Park squirrel greeting us.


Moreover, while exiting the Balboa Park trail, we chanced upon this wee web crawler intent on redesigning his gossamer home.


The San Diego Natural History Museum at Balboa Park is another place that draws many visitors.  The museum was founded in 1874, making it the oldest scientific entity in Southern California.  It is also the third oldest scientific research organization west of the Mississippi.  Over the years, the museum changed locations several times.  It now occupies a spot at Balboa Park, as this picture shows.


There’s a sundial outside the San Diego Natural History Museum.  As this photo indicates, it was donated by Joseph Jessop, who was a watchmaker originally from England.  He then emigrated to the United States and set up his first jewelry shop in downtown San Diego back in 1892.  By the latter half of the 20th century the jewelry store had grown into one of the five largest privately owned jewelry retailers in the U.S.  The Balboa Park Jessop Sundial was donated in 1906 as a reminder of the storied history behind telling time.  The sundial’s place outside the San Diego Natural History Museum likewise brings to mind the close ties between the history of science and the history of horology.  Horology is the study and measurement of time.


Also outside the San Diego Natural History Museum is Balboa Park’s Moreton Bay Fig Tree, which is over a century old!  It stands at about 80 feet with a girth of 42 feet.  Its majestic canopy measures 145 feet.


Here’s the information board found on the railing that protects Balboa Park’s Moreton Bay Fig Tree.


Here we are heading towards the Moreton Bay Fig Tree (from the San Diego Natural History Museum, which is in the background).


Here’s a closer perspective of the Balboa Park Moreton Bay Fig Tree‘s trunk with accompanying adventitious roots.

BalboaParkMoretonBayFigTreeTrunk - LearningByKids

There’s so much more to see at Balboa Park!


We hope our blog post article encourages you to explore San Diego’s Balboa Park as well.



Mariecor Agravante

Mariecor is a military veteran’s wife and a mother of two. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Gonzaga University (Spokane, WA), and has a strong California Grad School background in Organizational Leadership. Continually sought as a professional writer and freelance editor, Mariecor has been published in USA Today,, Studio D Media (formerly Demand Media Studios),,, and other media channels. She has several books under both her name as well as a pseudonym. To learn more about Mariecor Agravante, visit her website at

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